Domain du Tertre, PM Spirits/Seelbach’s selection

Maker: Domaine du Terte, Mahéru, Orne, Normandy, France.

Apples: 30 or so different French cider apple varieties, possibly pear as well.

Place of origin: Calvados AOC, Normandy, France.

Age: 16 y/o (distilled 2004, bottled 2020, XO status)

ABV: 55% (cask strength)

Notes: No additives or chill filtering. Estate grown apples. 80 bottles produced. Fermented using native yeast. For more information see the Seelbach’s website.

Price: $250 (Seelbach’s exclusive)

Thanks to Blake from Seelbach’s for the complementary bottle I used for this review!

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Oak, Norman cider, apple cores, cut Granny Smith apples.

Palate: Light bodied and delicate. Session cider, apple tannin, maple sugar candy. A little sweeter with water, but a lot of the other flavors are lost.

Finish: Swimming pool (this is not a bad note!), oak, dessert apple, burn, maple syrup.

Parting words: I will never doubt the power of whining again. When friend of the blog Sku posted tasting notes to this Calvados in the Serious Brandy Facebook group and thanked Blake Riber of Bourbonr and Seelbach’s for the sample, I commented that I also accepted samples. Blake took my jokey whine seriously and got me my own bottle so I could pass along my thoughts on it. I am very thankful that he did too.

Domaine du Tertre is a small operation in a small village in Orne. The closest city (such as it is) is Alenço(u)n, the capital of the department. The majority of the Domaine’s production is cider, perry, and juice, but it does make a small amount of Calvados every year. It’s been operated by the Havard family since the 19th century, and has been making Calvados since the 1870s. It is currently owned and operated by brothers Michel and Oliver. The farm is currently 50 hectares in area and the current orchards date from 1991.

I haven’t tasted a lot of old Calvados, but many of the ones I have tasted had lost their distinctive character in the barrel and tasted more like a Cognac of the same age than an apple brandy. This Domaine du Tertre does not have that problem. It took me a little time to wrap my head around it, but it tastes what it actually is: a kicked up Norman cider. There’s a lot of tannin and a little funk with some delicious cut apple aromas and flavors. It works very well as a special occasion aperitif or summer patio sipper for when old friends come to visit. A little water cools off some of the burn but too much kills all the interesting things going on here. Go easy.

I am so glad I was able to taste this wonderful brandy, and big thanks again to Blake for sending it my way. $250 is a lot of money, to be sure, but if it’s in your budget, Seelbach’s Domaine du Tertre 2004 selection is recommended!

Dupont Reserve

Maker: Domaine Dupont, Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France20190218_100331.jpg

Style: Calvados-barrel-aged cider.

Apples: 67% bittersweet, 33% acidic

Place of origin: (Pays d’Auge) Normandy, France.

Vintage: 2016 (bottled 2017)

Notes: Unpasteurized, wild yeast fermented. Aged in Calvados barrels for six months.

ABV: 6.9%

Purchased for $25/750 ml (Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana)

Parting words: Domaine Dupont is one of the big cheeses of Calvados and like many other Calvados houses, they make cider and pommeau as well. The domaine has been owned by the Dupont family since 1917. Current patriarch Éitienne Dupont modernized the estate when he took over from his father Jules in the 1980s. He handed the business over to his son Jérôme and daughter Ann-Pamy in 2002. Sadly, Jérôme was killed in an accident in August of 2018. Éitienne has come out of retirement to help Ann-Pamy and the management team to lead the company.

Dupont’s line of ciders consists of the entry-level Cidre Bouche (reviewed in 2014), an organic cider, Triple (triple fermented from 100% bittersweets), Cuvée Colette (champagne method), and this one, the Calvados-barrel aged Reserve. I didn’t care for the Cidre Bouche when I tried it (too dry and funky) but I really enjoy this cider. The barrel aging adds a wonderful creamy sweetness that balances out the chalky funk. The result is a well-rounded, complex but easy-drinking cider that anyone can enjoy.

That doesn’t come cheap, but Dupont Reserve is easily worth the price. Dupont Reserve is highly recommended.

 

Manoir de Montreuil Cambremer Pays d’Auge Cidre

Maker: Domaine Manoir de Montreuil, Montreuil-en-Auge, Calvados, Normandy, France (Giard family)20180909_174314.jpg

Apples: Various heirloom French cider varieties.

Place of origin: Domaine Manoir de Montreuil, Pays d’Auge, Calvados, Normandy, France.

ABV: 4.5%

Purchased for $13/750 ml (Westborn Market, Berkley, Michigan)

Appearance: Golden orange.

Nose: Sourdough starter, sawdust, dried apricots.

Palate: Fizzy and sweet. Caramel apple with peanuts, smoked pork shoulder.

Finish: Mild but meaty. Apple wood smoked pork.

Parting words: The Giard family has owned the Manoir de Montreuil estate since the eighteenth century. Like many apple growers in Calvados, the Giards produce cider and brandy from their estate, both under the Pays d’Auge appellation.

As far as I can tell, the brandy is not available in the US, except for in California where it sells in the $40-$45 range, which seems like a bargain for estate Calvados. One of the estate’s claims to fame is its large herd of free-range cattle which are allowed to roam the orchard and fertilize the soil the old-fashioned way.

I have found some Norman ciders to be overly tannic and funky. While the nose is funk and tannin forward, the palate is surprisingly fruity and even meaty on the back-end. While the orchards may be home to a lot of beef, the finish is porky. It’s like quality pork chops smoked over fruit wood.

It pairs very well with food of all kinds and is a great value at $13. Be careful, though! When I started to untwist the wire cage, the cork shot out, leaving a foamy mess all over my dining room floor.

Manoir de Montreuil Cambremer Pays d’Auge Cidre is recommended.